Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a time at which connections with friends and family are strengthened and positive mindsets are encouraged. Muslims around the world will take part, including in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the UK. 

By looking at the differences in these three markets, it’s clear that marketers can take inspiration from one another when it comes to creating relevant and culturally engaging content. With the pandemic changing traditions and routines, brands need to consider how they can lend a helping hand in strengthening connections and heightening positivity. 

From food to fitness, brands shouldn’t shy away from Ramadan; it is a huge marketing opportunity in a month that highlights values that brands want to excel in. Ramadan also dominates online discussion, with the most mentioned topics including general well wishes for the month, food, charity, sports and exercise, and entertainment. Our Senior Research & Insight Executive Saad Abukhadra takes a deeper dive into these topics, and how brands in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the UK can successfully join the conversation.

Focusing on food
Dates are the universal way that Muslims break their fast. They are easily digested and provide the energy and nutrients to recover from a long day’s fast. This is a trend you will find in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and the UK, with popular food and drink providing sources of replenishment and energy.

By considering the nutritional needs of Muslims during Ramadan, brands can tap into these communities by helping them to break their fast in a way that’ll sustain energy long-term. 

Vimto, a drink originating from the UK has been popularised as the go-to drink in Ramadan for Saudis, thanks to a large marketing campaign and its ability to provide a quick boost of blood sugar. 

Brands should also consider meal and prayer times when it comes to sharing content. In the UK, sunset can be as late as 10pm during summer months meaning the emphasis is on hydration, sleep and eating light meals. Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, however, have the luxury of breaking their fast around 6pm, allowing a lot more time to eat. By paying attention to this, brands can not only ensure that they reach peak engagement with their content but they can also demonstrate an understanding of the routine adopted during Ramadan.  

The impact of Covid has led to an increase in home-cooked meals, with 85.6% of Muslims in Saudi Arabia eating home-cooked meals every day during the pandemic, compared to only 35.6% beforehand. With the majority of food cooked at home, brands should consider which family members will be doing the heavy lifting and ensure that they are represented in their marketing. In Saudi Arabia, mothers lead the operation with support from children, while in Indonesia both parents typically prepare feasts for friends and family. 

Last year in the UK, Morrisons’ released their ‘Ramadan essentials box’ allowing customers to get key foods delivered to their door during a time when many couldn’t reach the supermarket. This demonstrates a consideration of this community and their needs, facilitating a sense of ‘normality’ during a Ramadan like no other.

Morrisons launches 'Ramadan essentials' food box for Muslim customers |  Metro News

Family first
With Covid still a present concern, markets will have varying degrees of interaction with the wider community. Saudi Arabia is likely going to be the most social given controlled measures to contain the virus. Gatherings have already been the norm, with 52% of people expecting family gatherings and visiting relatives this Ramadan. The UK and Indonesia, however, will be limited to tighter knit family homes.

Across markets, there has been an increased satisfaction of having family together during Ramadan, with parents enjoying increased time with kids who would normally be studying/working abroad. What is lacking are the external opportunities to connect with others at the mosques, malls and markets which are normally bustling. 

To make up for the lack of physical visits during Ramadan, people will predominantly use social media apps more (88%) to stay connected, with many planning to stream videos (77%). Indonesian telco company Telkomsel created an ad that showed how their services allowed families to see each other virtually, providing a sense of assurance and resolution during an uncertain time for many. 

Brands should consider how they can bring families together not only in real life but through social media. In 2020, Instagram launched the #MonthofGood, asking users to share their acts of positivity during Ramadan, allowing Muslims to connect with one another and share their stories during a time when many were alone. Our Dubai office created a campaign that was shot entirely via webcam for Switz, who produces baked treats and snacks, highlighting how families can enjoy activities like cooking and eating together, whilst physically apart. 

Instagram Launches #MonthofGood Initiative to Inspire Connection During  Ramadan | Brayve Digital

There has been a boom in platforms over the past year that can facilitate togetherness; Netflix Party has enabled families to watch movies together in real-time and Quiz Up has provided a virtual answer to board games. This will be essential for this year’s Ramadan, with families having to rethink the way in which they come together and communicate. 

Fuelling fitness
Ramadan acts as a reset button, with busy lifestyles and activity slowing down to focus more on prayer and connection with others. This has an impact on people’s fitness goals, with many often lamenting the loss of motivation and energy to maintain their progress. This has been ever more difficult in the context of Covid, stripping away hubs of training like gyms, encouraging people to make use of what’s available at home and in isolation. 

Brands can play a role in driving motivation during this time by offering advice and activities that can help people maintain their fitness levels. The Saudi Sports for All Federation launched its digital challenge, ‘Your Home, Your Gym’ in 2020, with participants using hashtags on social media to share their progress. Each post resulted in food baskets being donated to those in need. This highlights how brands can use the key aspects of Ramadan, like donating to charity, to motivate Muslims, using social media to spread the word and build up participation.  

Lockdown has had a positive impact on female participation in sports in the UK. Many feel that before the pandemic, limited health and fitness options had curtailed their access to exercise. 55% of Muslim women believe that the increased availability of home workout plans and free time to pursue fitness has provided a sustainable way to exercise. Brands looking to engage a female demographic should consider partnering with female Muslim trainers and athletes. Nike made Tottenham-based personal trainer Shazia Hossen, the brand’s first Hijab Ambassador in 2019, giving Muslim women a role model in the sportswear industry.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Shazia | Online Coach | PT (@_shazfit)

Fitness coach, Nazia Khatun began streaming her live workouts in the UK at midnight, allowing women who didn’t want to travel to gyms in the dark, to maintain their fitness levels from their home. With increased motivation during the pandemic, brands need to ensure that they remove barriers in fitness, whether that's designing sportswear that considers modesty, or gyms re-strategising to ensure the comfort of women in these facilities and at home.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by NAZIA KHATUN/Fitness coach (@fitnessrebornuk1)

Support through social
Fasting is no easy feat, with Muslims often finding solidarity in one another to help them get through Ramadan. Activity in the streets, in cafés and malls is what often brings joy and excitement during this time period across the markets, coming together as a community in order to find support. 

However, Ramadan can be mentally challenging, and with a lack of social activities able to occur this year, brands can do their bit in helping to support Muslims. Changes have been upsetting to many, deemed ‘emotionally challenging, frustrating and culturally alien.’ This has been a big shock to elderly Muslims in particular, who feel more vulnerable when it comes to isolation.

There has been a rise in people using social media in order to keep traditions alive and find connections within specific communities. Gaming has provided virtual spaces for people to replicate traditions that are unable to occur due to Covid-19. Video game developer Rami Ismail created an ‘Iftar spot’ in Animal Crossing, replicating an experience that he wasn’t able to enjoy in real life.

McDonald’s Saudi Arabia created an Iftar Sand Clock on their social channels, counting down the time until Muslims can break their fast. Once the sand falls, special promo codes were revealed, encouraging people to order McDonald’s just in time for Iftar. This highlights the ability to use social media to form a community for your brand, creating content that is relevant and useful to Muslims.

Leo Burnett creates Sand Clock for McDonald's during Ramadan – Campaign  Middle East

Entertainment matters
Screen time is up across the markets during Ramadan, with Ramadan TV shows the equivalent of the Super Bowl in Saudi Arabia, with dedicating programming such as Exit7, highly anticipated. Similarly in the UK, television and movies are often used as a way to pass time and distract minds until Muslims can break their fast. 

63% of Twitter users plan to watch more videos and films online than usual during Ramadan in Indonesia, demonstrating an overall surge in content consumption during this time period. This has also led to higher expectations in Saudi Arabia when it comes to the quality of entertainment, with alternatives like YouTube and the cinema heightening what is expected of content during this period. 

Cooking, TV and gaming are the three main sources of entertainment. Google found a fourfold increase in search frequency for terms like “menu for breaking fast” and recipes for dishes typically served during the Idul Fitr festivities. Time spent consuming content is highest during the day, whilst social media conversations peak at night, given this is when people are the most active due to fasts breaking.

Brands need to pay attention to these three main sources, as well as the times in which people are engaging in content, contributing to the conversation when it is most pertinent. YouTube and live streaming has changed what it takes for brands to connect with audiences, allowing them to create personal connections with communities. 

By understanding new interests and trends, like cooking and gardening, brands can create content that directly speaks to these audiences. In 2019, Nestlé Middle East created a service on Facebook Messenger where people could get advice on food, wellness and entertainment, recommending dishes that used Nestlé products in the recipes.  

Brands can also maximise second screen opportunities by considering where their marketing efforts are best spent. 83% of people in Indonesia use their mobile whilst watching TV during Ramadan, with 61% playing mobile games whilst multi-screening.  It isn’t just a younger demographic that is being attracted to gaming, but mothers too, with 74% of Indonesian mothers saying that they enjoyed playing games everyday.

Brands must acknowledge gaming as a great way to target a range of demographics, providing not only a source of entertainment, but a sense of togetherness at a time when people are apart. 

Giving back 
Giving water, food or clothes to the needy are the main ways each market donates to charity during Ramadan. There has been a rise in online donations thanks to the pandemic, making donating to charity simpler. Social media has been central in raising awareness of organisations that Muslims can donate to during Ramadan, with platforms like Instagram and TikTok launching donation features that enable online donations. 

Brands can use these features to facilitate charitable donations during Ramadan. The pandemic has made this process even easier and less expensive for brands, with social media an easy way to promote initiatives that help the needy.

Brands have also been giving back. Domino’s pizza restaurants in Saudi Arabia launched their ‘Pizza For Good’ initiative on Twitter, resulting in the donation of 250,000 pizzas to families in need during Ramadan 2020. In the UK, Muslim dating app Muzmatch has also raised money to build a school in Pakistan.

Brands can also offer opportunities for those wanting to play their part. With in-person efforts less likely in the current climate, brands can consider a virtual alternative, similar to UNICEF’s Tap Project, which in the past has challenged people to stay off their phones. For every 10 minutes people went without checking their devices, UNICEF sponsors donated enough money to provide a child in need with a full day of clean water. 

UNICEF Tap Project Archives -

Tone of voice is crucial during Ramadan, and brands need to tweak this in order to express solidarity and empathy during a trying time for many. By tapping into positive conversations and not performing empty gestures, brands can ensure that they’re contributing in a considered and thoughtful way.

Key takeaways

Focusing on food: Brands should take a considered approach when it comes to marketing around food, taking notice of the impact of Ramadan on routines, meal times and nutritional requirements.

Family first: Brands need to heighten positivity and provide solutions to anxieties surrounding family separation, ensuring that their marketing is empathetic yet innovative. 

Fuelling fitness: Brands can drive motivation to exercise by offering rewards in exchange for progress, whilst also including more inclusive role models within their advertising to inspire communities. 

Support through social: Brands should create content that heightens a sense of community during Ramadan, thinking about how they can use social media to facilitate togetherness at a time when most are apart. 

Entertainment matters: Brands should pay attention to conversations around trends and activities on social media, creating content that facilitates these sources of entertainment. 

Giving back: Brands need to think about how they can avoid empty gestures and create initiatives that allow people the chance to give back, ensuring to maintain a considered tone of voice during the month.